Bean Artist. {book preview}



Image: Sarah Bamford Seidelmann.

By Sarah Bamford Seidelmann.

This is an excerpt from my book, Born to FREAK: A Salty Primer for Irrepressible Humans.

It’s a love letter to all of you who were born to FREAK, to see the world a little differently and to bring balance to it by expressing yourselves. I’m a physician who quit medicine to work as a healer of the soul. The following excerpt is part of that transition.


When my life had become terribly complicated, I was living in a six thousand square foot house and feeling overwhelmed and unhappy. I began getting strange urges. I’m not talking about sexual domination yearnings or cravings for Oreo cookies. These were Elmer’s Glue–focused fantasies. I started doing decoupage.

For the uninitiated, decoupage is the delicate and often messy art of gluing paper onto stuff like glass or wood. I became obsessed with finding Victorianish images of bears and chickens and rabbits and other Beasties. This urge was so pronounced that my comedian sister, Maria Bamford, even told jokes about it: Sarah to Maria: “DUDE! Grab a mug or a tray! What do you want to do? A rabbit or a moose? Let’s decoupage!”

If you’d seen me at night – exhausted, schlumped over the glowing computer screen, poring over the images I’d started collecting, scanning them from vintage postcards – you’d have thought I’d gone mad. My husband would say, “Aren’t you ever coming to bed?” I’d say, “Yes … in just a few minutes,” as I intently studied a newly discovered rabbit in a blue striped suit.

As I decoupaged, I had no idea what the hell was happening to me or why I was so obsessed with all that imagery. I thought maybe I was supposed to be making stuff with the images I was drawn to, so I did: candles, trays, and flower holders, with lions, tigers, and oceans full of coral and fish. I even bravely went to the big city with a dear friend to schlep my creations to the shops. I sold some and even got some commissions (well, okay, one commission, from my mother’s friend, for a golden retriever serving tray, which I never did complete).

Though I got some positive feedback, I was spending hours I really didn’t have on decoupaging trays, which (by then) filled the entire dining room, and I kept feeling like what I was doing wasn’t exactly what I was supposed to be doing. It was rawwwther frustrating. But I kept at it. I couldn’t stop.


Share your dreams with visionary people,

with other FREAKS, who encourage you

and goad you into action.

~ Alice The Elephant


Then my friend Suzi joined me in my decoupage fantasy world. At night, we’d sit like complete loons in my basement decoupage laboratory making whimsical journals, decorating old green bean cans (it really didn’t matter much what we decorated), and singing along to awesome pop music. At 10:30 PM, covered in glitter and glue, we’d line up our newest creations, look at each other, and I’d say, “But what does it mean??” I kept trying to understand why I was compelled to do what I was doing. I wanted a logical reason for all my illogical activity.

Suzi and I opened a tiny shop together, where we sold fixed up vintage furnishings and some of our decoupaged creations. Our shop was about more than just selling things. It was as if we were both finding our own selves among the rubble of the garage sales and flea markets we’d troll through, seeking hidden treasures to resurrect with a little paint and placement into a vignette in our shop. What happened was that by committing a bit of ourselves to our creativity, we rebirthed ourselves.


Your process can be messy.

Allow yourself to work in a

way that works for you.

~ Alice The Elephant


The most freeing thing about that time – the decoupaging and the little shop – was allowing myself to do it purely for enjoyment. There was no need for any of it to make money (that was what my “real” job was for), or even to make sense.  When I tried to make sense of it or figure out how I could make a living at it, I only became frustrated, but when I allowed myself to just be an artist, it all became utterly fantastic and joyful and I experienced what I now know is called flow.


I decided to post a sign in my creative lab in the basement that said, “JUST BE AN ARTIST” – to remind myself that none of it had to make sense. I was beginning to claim the part of myself that’s truly creative. Though I’d always loved to paint and draw and create in all mediums whenever I had the chance, over time and through schooling and exposure to the harsh and sometimes cruel world, at some point I’d come to believe that I wasn’t an artist and that the title of artist was only for professionals.  I made my glittery “JUST BE AN ARTIST” sign myself.

When I proudly showed it to my husband, he misread it. “JUST BEAN ARTIST?” he said, with a confused look. “Oh, so you’re going to make stuff out of beans and pasta noodles? I did that in school. Yeah, I get it.” Dagnabbit! Even making a sign about what I was going through didn’t help the people close to me understand. It was maddening! Looking back, I see now that I was trying to convey a message to the world and to claim my own inner multitude, by saying, “I AM AN ARTIST.”


After a while, I got tired of all the mess and the gluing, and it felt good to stop creating in that way. About a year later, while on sabbatical from my medical practice, I stumbled onto the idea that aligning ourselves with certain wild animals, or Beasties, is very powerful medicine indeed for whatever ails us. In that idea, in a way, I rediscovered my life’s purpose: to heal others using ancient, Earth based methods.  Perhaps the Beasties I spent so much time feverishly gluing onto glass during those few years knew all along that I truly am an artist, and they showed up to help me remember that.

It was necessary and healing to spend time in my quirky basement decoupage laboratory. In the process of allowing myself to simply create without rules, I began to understand that I could create anything my heart desires. I learned that within me dwells a true artist.  I still love to collaborate with others to design books, websites, and paper goods, and I still adore making things and combining different imagery elements, but now I find it much less overwhelming to work virtually through my computer. Through it all, I’ve realized that I don’t have to try to become an artist. I can just BEAN ARTIST.


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sarah seidelmann Sarah Bamford Seidelmann is a fourth-generation, board certified physician turned shamanic healer and life coach. She lives with her husband and four children near the shores of Lake Superior. Her first book, What The Walrus Knows,  was #1 in its category upon launch and it’s getting rave reviews on Amazon as is the app of the same name at iTunes. Her second book,  Born to FREAK:  A Salty Primer for Irrepressible Humans , is resonating highly with irrepressible readers.  



{Make it happen.}


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